The therapeutic value of neem, also known as Azadirachta indica, margosa, or Indian lilac, has been long revered and upheld by the Ayurvedic, naturopathic, Unani, and homeopathic schools of medicine.
Such is the pharmacological cred of this evergreen tree that neem is often referred to as the “village pharmacy” or a “one tree pharmacy” in its native country India, implying that it’s the answer to a whole lot of maladies.
Replete with more than 140 biologically active compounds, almost every part of this tree is prized for its healing effect and can work as an effective antidote to one ailment or another.
With antibacterial, antiviral, analgesic, antipyretic, antiseptic, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antifungal, blood-purifying, and spermicidal properties to boost, no wonder neem has earned the reputation of being a bonafide panacea.(1)
The neem roots, bark, gum, leaves, fruit, twigs, seed kernels, and seed oil are used in therapeutic preparations that are intended for both internal and topical use.
Neem trees are also beneficial for the environment, thus aiding your health in more ways than you can count. For instance, neem urea has emerged as an ecologically viable alternative to plain urea fertilizers as it promotes soil health and fertilizer’s potency without polluting the environment.
Despite the wide-ranging health benefits of using neem as a remedy, it comes with its own set of precautions.
- Excessive dosage can lead to renal failure as well as increased fatigue. Also, people with low blood pressure or pre-existing kidney or liver conditions are advised against its use.
- People with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, should exercise extra caution when using neem and must keep their doctor in the loop to avoid any complications.
- Even small doses of this herb can prove fatal for infants, making it a complete no-no for babies and small children.
- Neem is also not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women or those who are trying to conceive as it can cause miscarriages.
- In addition, neem oil should never be taken internally.
- Neem has an immunity boosting effect which can offset the action of immunosuppressants.
- The sugar-lowering properties of Neem make it unsafe to be consumed in conjunction with diabetic medications. Neem can enhance the effect of the drugs and cause your blood glucose to dip dangerously low.
- Given its diuretic effect, Indian lilac can hamper the body’s ability to excrete lithium. Subsequently, the increased levels of lithium in the body can prove toxic and engender serious side-effects.
Merits of Adding Neem (Indian Lilac) to Your Diet
Here are 10 health benefits, facts, and remedies of neem.
1. Treats Dandruff
Neem has antifungal and antibacterial properties that make it very effective in treating dandruff and keeping your scalp healthy.(2) It also relieves dryness and itching, two common symptoms of dandruff.
- Boil a handful of neem leaves in 4 cups of water until the color of the leaves fade, and the water becomes green. Allow this water to cool and then use it as a final rinse after you shampoo your hair. It will also help keep your hair conditioned.
- Alternatively, prepare a paste with a few tablespoons of neem powder and sufficient water. Apply it on your scalp and hair. Leave it on for 30 minutes, and then shampoo and condition your hair as usual. Use this treatment 2 or 3 times a week until you get rid of dandruff completely.
2. Treats Skin Problems
Neem is a good option in keeping your skin healthy and flawless. Neem has antiviral, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties that help treat and prevent many skin problems, such as acne, rashes, psoriasis, and eczema.(3)
Moreover, it helps heal wounds and prevent any infections or septic conditions. For instance, the topical application of neem water can expedite the healing of burnt skin while simultaneously protecting the affected area from the threat of allergies or infections.
Neem also contains a high level of antioxidants that help protect the skin from environmental damage and delay the signs of aging caused by free radical activity.
Neem oil, on the other hand, can help hydrate the skin as well as alleviate itchiness and irritation. The popularity of neem as a skin-enhancing agent is supported by the fact that neem extracts and oil are widely included as ingredients in a whole range of cosmetics.
- For any kind of skin problem, grind some fresh neem leaves into a paste. Apply it on the affected skin. Allow it to dry on its own, and then rinse it off with cool water. Use this treatment once daily until you are satisfied with the results.
- You can also massage your skin with a mixture of 1/3 cup of olive oil or coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of neem oil to rejuvenate skin cells and restore elasticity. This helps maintain glowing skin and an even skin tone.
3. Kills Head Lice
A study published in the Journal of Parasitology Research in 2012 found that neem seed extract can eliminate head lice infestation with a single treatment, as it acts as a natural and non-toxic insect repellant.(4) Plus, neem is effective in providing relief from scalp itching and irritations that usually ensue after a lice infestation.
- Wash your hair with any herbal neem-based shampoo 2 or 3 times a week, and then use a louse comb to get rid of head lice.
- Alternatively, apply a paste of neem leaves on your hair and scalp. Allow it to dry, and then rinse your hair thoroughly with warm water. Then, comb out your hair using a lice comb. Follow this treatment 2 or 3 times a week for 2 months.
- Massaging your hair and scalp with undiluted neem oil is also very effective. After massaging, comb out the hair using lice comb to get rid of the lice. You can leave the neem oil in your hair for about an hour or even overnight before washing it off.
4. Maintains Oral Health
Neem also helps maintain oral health and keep different types of gum diseases at bay. Its antibacterial and antiseptic properties help kill the bacteria that cause cavities, plaque, gingivitis, and mouth sores, among other oral ailments.(5)
Neem extracts are a regularly used ingredient in oral hygiene products, such as toothpaste and mouthwashes, as they work as purifiers that rid the mouth of disease-causing pathogens responsible for foul breath; they also promote the immunity of mouth tissues and produce whiter and shinier teeth.
- Extract the juice of neem leaves and rub it on your teeth and gums. Leave it on for a few minutes, and then rinse it off with warm water. Use this treatment once daily. You can also use soft neem twigs to brush your teeth.
- Use toothpaste, mouthwash, and oral health tonics that have neem as one of the key ingredients.
5. Purifies the Blood
Neem is thought to work as a powerful blood purifier and detoxifier that cleanse the body of harmful toxins.
Neem also causes the blood vessels to dilate, resulting in improved blood circulation across the body. This, in turn, enables the effective supply of nutrients and oxygen to all parts of the body. Although neem holds a lot of promise as a blood purifier and its positive impact is quite evident, more research is needed to fully establish this claim.(6)
Given this beneficial attribute, neem can engender a stimulating effect on the functioning of important body organs, such as the kidney and liver, and helps in maintaining healthy circulatory, digestive, respiratory, and urinary systems.
- Eat 2 or 3 tender neem leaves mixed with some honey on an empty stomach every day for several weeks to notice changes in your body and skin. You can also drink neem tea.
- Alternatively, take 1 or 2 neem capsules twice a day with meals for a few weeks. For the correct dosage, consult a doctor.
6. Controls Diabetes
According to a 2000 study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, neem may be beneficial in controlling blood sugar or helpful in preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes.(7)
Neem leaf extract contains several compounds that can reduce insulin requirements among people with diabetes without any apparent effect on blood glucose level.
- Neem tablets help lower blood glucose level. Take neem tablets or powder to control diabetes after consulting a doctor about the proper dosage.
- Those who are at a higher risk of developing diabetes can chew 4 or 5 tender neem leaves daily or every other day on an empty stomach to prevent it.
7. Prevents Intestinal Worms
Neem has both curative and preventive effects on intestinal worms due to its antiparasitic properties. Several compounds in neem inhibit the parasites ability to feed, thus interrupting their life cycle and preventing new parasites from hatching. Neem also removes the toxins that the parasites leave behind as they die.(8)
- Chew tender neem leaves on an empty stomach or drink neem tea 2 times daily for 1 to 2 weeks to get rid of intestinal worms.
- You can also take neem capsules or supplements after consulting your doctor.
8. Relieves Arthritis Inflammation
Neem is a popular herbal treatment for arthritis, especially osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Its inflammation-reducing and pain-suppressing properties can alleviate joint pain, inflammation, and swelling.(9) Relieving all these discomforts it enhances the flexibility of the affected joints as well.
- Boil a handful of neem leaves and flowers in 1 cup of water. Strain and allow it to cool. Drink it twice a day for 1 month to reduce arthritis pain and inflammation.
- Regular massage with neem oil is also effective in relieving muscle aches and joint pain and reducing lower back pain.
9. Fights Nail Problems
Neem can be used to treat all kinds of problems related to nails, such as splintering and peeling as well as brittle nails. Furthermore, its antiseptic and antifungal properties can help treat and prevent different types of nail infections, including toenail fungus.(10)
- Simply apply neem oil on the infected toenail twice daily for 1 month to treat toenail fungus. This remedy also helps make your nails strong, thus preventing them from peeling or becoming brittle.
- You can also apply neem oil on your nails to stop nail biting. The bitter taste will discourage you from putting your fingers in your mouth.
10. Treats Cancer
According to a 2014 study by researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, neem extracts, seeds, leaves, flowers, and fruits have all shown chemopreventive and antitumor effects in different types of cancer, including cervical and prostate cancer.(11)
Several components, as well as the antioxidants, in neem leaves are beneficial in cancer treatment.
Furthermore, neem can help prevent or treat cancer by boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, removing free radicals, blocking hormonal activity, and inhibiting cell division. Consult your doctor before using neem or any other herb to treat or reduce the risk of cancer.
- Subapriya R, Nagini S. Medicinal properties of neem leaves: a review. Current Medicinal Chemistry. Anticancer Agents. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15777222. Published March 2005.
- Zhang YQ, Xu J, Yin ZQ, et al. Isolation and identification of the antibacterial active compound from petroleum ether extract of neem oil. Fitoterapia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20362038/. Published October 2010.
- Thas JJ. Siddha medicine–background and principles and the application for skin diseases. Clinics in Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18280906. Published 2008.
- Abdel-Ghaffar F, Al-Quraishy S, Al-Rasheid KA, Mehlhorn H. Efficacy of a single treatment of head lice with a neem seed extract: an in vivo and in vitro study on nits and motile stages. Parasitology Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21667206. Published January 2012.
- Elavarasu S, Abinaya P, Elanchezhiyan S, Vennila K, Naziya KB. Evaluation of the anti-plaque microbial activity of Azadirachtaindica (neem oil) in vitro: A pilot study. Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23066297/. Published August 2012.
- Chauhan S. AN OVERVIEW ON BLOOD PURIFIER. International Research Journal of Pharmacy. http://journaldatabase.info/articles/overview_on_blood_purifier.html. Published 2013.
- Khosla P, Bhanwra S, Singh J, Seth S, Srivastava RK. A study of hypoglycaemic effects of Azadirachtaindica (Neem) in normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10919098. Published January 2000.
- Luong K, Dunkel FV, Coulibaly K, Beckage NE. The potential use of neem leaf slurry as a sustainable dry season management strategy to control the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae (DIPTERA: CULICIDAE) in West African villages. Journal of Medical Entomology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23270164/. Published November 2012.
- Alam A, Haldar S, Thulasiram HV, et al. the Novel anti-inflammatory activity of epoxyazadiradione against macrophage migration inhibitory factor: inhibition of tautomerase and proinflammatory activities of macrophage migration inhibitory factor. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22645149/. Published July 13, 2012.
- Kumar VS, Navaratnam V. Neem (Azadirachtaindica): Prehistory to contemporary medicinal uses to humankind. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3695574/. Published July 2013.
- Hao F, Kumar S, Yadav N. Neem components as potential agents for cancer prevention and treatment. BiochimicaetBiophysicaActa (BBA) – Reviews on Cancer. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304419X14000559. Published July 10, 2014.